Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Climate Agreement and Agriculture

Everywhere you look in the media lately you see news on the new agreement coming out of Paris regarding climate change. This will no doubt have an impact on farmers and agriculture around the globe. Review the linked article and use the discussion points provided below to guide your conversations in your classrooms and communities around the world.

Can the Paris agreement protect farmers?

Discussion Points

  • What is the African farmer, Purity, doing to overcome and battle climate change on her farm?
  • What can agriculture success and improvement mean to small farm families in developing countries?
  • What are the expected ramifications of climate change on the Philippines in the coming years?
  • Traditionally why has agriculture been left out of climate negotiations? 
  • Why is the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) welcoming this recent agreement in Paris?
  • Why are small farmers (especially those in developing countries) more at risk to climate change than larger farmers (in developed countries)?
Additional challenge:
We often hear the doom and gloom projections of climate change and it's impact on agriculture and food production. On my recent trip to Nicaragua I was told that it is projected that by 2050 no coffee would be grown in the region I was visiting, that heavily relies on coffee production, due to a warming climate. I am an optimist. This statement is assuming that everything will stay constant and no change/adaptations will be made. My first thought is what can we do to change this trend? And this is my question for you to think about, discuss, and take action. What can we do to change this trend?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Discovering Nicaragua

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to explore agriculture and life in Nicaragua. It was a quick trip with only two days in country, but a lot was accomplished and we look forward to returning with groups to learn more about agriculture in Nicaragua and some of the challenges they are facing. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with only Haiti coming in below them. Nicaragua is also the largest country, by land area, in Latin America, but is the least populated. It was also noted that Nicaragua is known as the safest country in Latin America. While Nicaragua is known as a poor country I was blown away by the beauty and lush landscape of this great country.

View from a coffee farm we visited in the providence of San Roman. 

I spent my first full day in country exploring the San Roman area which is a mountainous region. On our way to San Roman we passed many processing facilities for coffee and rice along with some tobacco farms. The major crops produced in the San Roman area are: corn, coffee, beans, cocoa, passion fruit, malanga, and vegetables. Beef cattle production is seen throughout the country. Climate change is a major challenge that Nicaraguan farmers are facing. I was able to visit with a foundation in the area that works with farmers to battle climate change and other challenges facing farmers. I, also, was fortunate enough to visit some local schools to see what is being done to improve young lives in Nicaragua. 

On our way to San Roman. I was impressed with much of the infrastructure in Nicaragua. 

We started our second full day in the San Roman area by visiting another organization working with farmers to introduce technology in solar power and irrigation. Soon after we made our way to the city of Leon. As we traveled from San Roman to Leon we left the mountainous areas to lower elevations of the flat lands. As we reached lower elevations we found a lot of rice, peanuts, sorghum, sugarcane, and chia being grown. Cattle production seemed to increase as well.  We enjoyed lunch in Leon before making our way to Los Alpes Ranch where we discussed agriculture and agricultural education in the region.

Active volcano Telica in the background of roaming cattle.

After our time at Los Alpes Ranch we returned to Leon where we met with a gentleman developing and engineering technology in renewable energy and food processing. Elmer shared his work in solar energy, wind energy, and stove technology. We then returned to Managua so I could catch a flight out the next morning. We look forward to returning to Nicaragua with a group to learn more about agriculture in Nicaragua. Thanks to our great hosts with Sister Communities of San Roman, Larry and Anjie. We look forward to our return. 

Elmer showing off his solar powered dehydrator for food preservation. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Climate Change is Here

Many have heard about the recent global talks on climate change that are taking place in Paris. In the past some have argued the validity of climate change and a warming planet, but as science has shown our world is warming and many are starting to take note. The linked article takes a look at how climate change is effecting food supply and chains around the globe. Use the discussion points provided to guide your conversations.

Big Food Feels the Threat of Climate Change

Discussion Points

  • How is climate change impacting farmers in the state of Vermont in the United States? How could this in-turn impact the consumer?
  • What is happening in Ethiopia in regards to climate change and farming?
  • How is Mars Inc., producer of candy, being effected by climate change?
  • Why is Mars not immediately concerned about the effects of climate change on production of chocolate, but more concerned for the farmers on a local level? What are they doing to help?
  • Why is it important that large companies are joining together and demanding something be done in regards to climate change?
  • Have you seen climate and weather pattern changes in your home area? If so, how has this affected agriculture? In not, why is this the case?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fake Pesticides Harming India

Counterfeit pesticides are causing an array of challenges and issues in India. From harming crops to human health the results are not good. Linked below is an article that discusses the challenges that India is facing regarding fake pesticides. Utilize the discussion points below to guide discussions in your classrooms and around the globe!

Fake Pesticides Endanger Crops and Health

Discussion Points

  • What are the negative effects of the distribution of fake pesticides to the following areas?
    • Crops
    • Production throughout the country
    • Health
    • Society
  • What penalties are in place in India to combat the sale/distribution of fake pesticides?
  • How could the sale of fake pesticides in India affect other countries and policies around the globe?
  • The overuse of pesticides was mentioned in this article. What practices are utilized around the world to diminish the overuse of pesticides?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

China Company Interested in Syngenta and Others

We take a look at an article discussing the interest of ChemChina to purchase Swiss based Syngenta. China for years has been trying to get it's hand on GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds. They have gone to great lengths to do so. They may be closer than ever now to doing so with the possible purchase of Syngenta and other seed companies. Read the linked article and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

China's Hunger for GMO Seeds

Discussion Points

  • Why is ChemChina so interested in purchasing Syngenta?
  • Why is China's president, Jinping, in such great support of the possible acquisition?
  • What other companies is ChemChina interested in purchasing and why?
  • What could the acquisition of Syngenta by ChemChina mean for:
    • China?
    • your home country?
    • for the rest of the world?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Global Food Security: Why Science Matters

The middle of October the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College hosted David Lambert as he presented his lecture "A Closer Look at Global Food Security: Why Science Matters" as part of the World Food Prize Lecture Series. David hit on many of hot topics relating to global food security ranging from climate change to child nutrition. Linked below is David's lecture. It is about 45 minutes in length. Unfortunately, David passed away just a few days after sharing his lecture with us. In his honor I encourage you to share his lecture with others and start discussion around global food security.

David Lambert's Lecture

Discussion Points (Feel free to share these points and questions ahead of time to guide notes while watching.)

  • Why should we even care about hunger around the world?
  • What does hunger look like in the United States and around the world? What facts surprised you?
  • What role does science play in global food security?
  • Explain the concept behind "1,000 Days."
  • What does agriculture's global footprint look like?
  • What facts were shared regarding climate change?
  • What has history and science said about the safety of biotechnology and genetically modified foods? Explain.
  • How does food loss and waste factor into global food security?
  • David shared the best policy solutions for global food security. Which policy/policies that he shared do you feel has the biggest potential for a positive impact and why?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Feeding Our World Utilizing Technology

We have all heard the challenge of feeding a growing world by 2050. At first projections were a population of over 9 billion by 2050 and now recent projections are showing a projected population of over 9.6 or 9.7 billion by 2050. There are many thoughts and plans on how we will achieve feeding our continually growing population. One of the key concepts is the fact that we will need to produce more with less utilizing technology and innovation. The linked article takes a look at how agriculture is investing more and more into technology and precision agriculture practices. Read the linked article and use the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms and coffee shops around the globe.

Farming by sub-inch: What the future of food looks like

Discussion Points

  • What is precision agriculture and how will it help us increase agriculture production and sustainability to feed a growing population? How would you explain this to someone that you run into on the street and have a minute or less to give your explanation?
  • What policy change in China just happened recently that could affect food demand? In your opinion how big of an impact will this have? Justify your response.
  • Specifically discuss and share with others the trends we have seen in agriculture technology investments over the past years.
  • What factors are causing John Deere to invest more resources into Chinese markets?
  • In the section "land productivity side-effects" some negative light is shed on agriculture. Are these accusations legitimate? Is it completely an agriculture issue? How is/can agriculture be a part of the solution? 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Doomsday Vault Opened

Recently scientists have had to open the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (known as the "Doomsday Seed Vault") to retrieve seeds to continue experiments and recoup lost seeds and research. The link below provides great information on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It includes videos, text, and further links to the website for Svalbard. The video (2:40) at the top of the page does a great job of explaining the purpose of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and why it is needed today. There is a second video (1:16) farther down the page that gives a quick overview of seed vaults in general while focusing on Svalbard.  I encourage you to explore the information provided and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Arctic Doomsday Vault Opens

Discussion Points

  • What is the purpose or why do we need the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (seed vaults in general)?
  • What has caused the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to be opened?
  • There is a focus on diversity of seeds and crops. Why is it important to preserve this diversity in the interest of global food security?
  • The seed vault has many varieties and/or crops that may not exist in nature today. Why is this important?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Borlaug Dialogue Day 3: Let's Get to Work

Today was the third and final day of the Borlaug Dialogue. There was plenty to think about and we were definitely left with a charge to get out and take action. Enough talk, it is time to take action and make a difference. Every little bit helps. As the previous days, below you will find a recap of our final day in Des Moines to keep the dialogue going.

Breakfast Keynote Address: Mehmood Khan

  • Fastest growing markets are outside the United States.
  • Do not be put off by challenge.
  • Diversity is key to success. Diversity of thought, not the way someone looks.
  • If you want to move things forward have a diverse team with diverse backgrounds with diverse education.
  • Do things that are right, because it is what should be done. Do not do the right things for just accolades.
The Case For Conservation Agriculture: Sir Gordon Conway, Howard Buffett, Kofi Boa, Alejandro Lopez Moriena
  • The greatest asset a farmer has is soil.
  • You can do a lot of things right, but if you don't with soil the other things don't count.
  • We need to utilize crop rotations and cover crops to try and emulate what nature did years ago on that ground.
  • No-till, rotations, and cover are the key principles to soil conservation.
  • The disk is the greatest compaction tool ever.
  • There is not a magic formula when it comes to crop rotations. There are different rotations for different locations and climates around the globe.
  • In developing countries the first step in conservation is cover in some way, shape, or form.
  • We must educate and show others the benefits of conservation practices. We must change the culture and way that people think.
The Orange Revolution: A Novel Approach to Traditional Challenges: Pamela Anderson, Maria Andrade, Jan Low, Robert O.M. Mwanga
  • We need to focus on all crops and livestock in order to combat hunger.
  • Sweet potatoes provide Vitamin A and energy to many children in developing countries.
  • Sweet potatoes survive better in drought conditions than corn or soybeans.
  • Farmers are selling 15% of their sweet potato crop in Africa as a cash crop.
  • Can have a sweet potato crop in three months.
  • One sweet potato vine cutting could give you 10-15 more cuttings to plant your next field.
  • We need a nutrition education component to accompany implementation of growing sweet potatoes.
Borlaug 2.0: Louise Fresco, Monty Jones, M.S. Swaminathan, Ronnie Coffman
  • Today our debate is about diversity, not only for minds but for crops and diets.
  • We should not shy away from more modernized agriculture, even in developing countries.
  • Had Norman Borlaug been here today he would have liked to see the Green Revolution get to Africa.
  • Key Points from the Borlaug Dialogue
    • Maintain interest in agriculture
    • Work together
    • Invest more in agriculture
Laureate Luncheon Address: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
  • There are two things that plague the poor:
    • Lack of resources
    • Lack of solidarity among themselves
  • In Bangladesh hunger is considered a season like American autumn.
  • The poorest of poor can, if given the right assistant, get out of poverty.
  • The government didn't want to learn from us, so I had to set up a university.
  • We urged people to diversify starting with small vegetable gardens beside their homes.
It was a great three days that will keep us discussing these issues and more importantly push us to action to end global hunger!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Borlaug Dialogue Day Two: Big Data to Aquaculture

There was such great information shared during the second day of the Borlaug Dialogue! Many topics were covered from big data to aquaculture. As yesterday, I will post highlights from the various panels and presentations. Strike up a conservation with others and see what can be done to fight hunger around the world.

Precision Ag and Big Data: Technologies for Resilience: Ruben Echeverria, Yangxuan Liu, Benjamin Pratt, Cory Reed, Jose Simas, Michael Stern
  • There are more cell phones than people in the world.
  • There are 570 million farms globally and 72% are smaller than 1 hectare (2.47 acres).
  • Technology and innovation is the solution.
  • Ninety countries around the world have GPS/guidance capabilities in agriculture.
  • Technology needs to be used to improve fertilizers. We need more research in this area.
  • Precision Ag/data management is not just for crops but also applies to animal production.
  • Small data for smallholder farmers is very important. Lets not forget this.
  • Big data analysis does not replace the experts. 
  • Data privacy will continue to be a major issue.
Special Address on the Occasion: Cargill 150th Anniversary: David MacLennan
  • Change in global food system is constant.
  • Agriculture accounts for 40% of land use and 70% of water use.
  • Today yields are 6-8 times higher than they were 150 years ago.
  • We must grow the right crops in the right soils and climates. Then let free trade work.
  • We must close the gap between farmers in developing and developed countries.
  • Keys to Success in Feeding the World
    • Honor comparative advantage
    • Trust trading partners
    • Enact smart public policy
    • Let markets work
    • Invest in innovation
    • Pursue sustainability
Conversation: Voices from the Farm: Gebisa Ejeta, Eric Pohlman, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg
  • Smallholder farmers in Africa produce 80% of the food in the continent, but yet these farmers are some of the hungriest people in the world.
  • Forty percent of the harvest is lost post harvest in Africa.
  • We must get farmers in Africa to look at agriculture as a business.
  • Animal agriculture currently accounts for 40% of agriculture GDP.
  • We need to change how we think in order to implement successful practices.
  • Access to credit in rural areas of Africa is a huge challenge.
  • There are a lot of things that are working, but we need to expand and improve.
Innovation: An Essential Ingredient to Feeding 9 Billion: James Borel
  • The path of food security begins by exploring the challenges, then developing solutions.
  • Demand is more than one planet can handle.
  • In 2009 the amount of people living in urban areas surpassed the amount living in rural areas.
  • About half of all farmers and their families are malnourished around the world.
  • Farmers feed the world, but they cannot do it alone.
  • We must find ways to significantly reduce food waste.  
Hope for Feeding Our World: Chris Policinski
  • We cannot let rich countries drive and determine what developing countries need.
  • We cannot wage a war against science if we want to feed the world.
  • Agriculture Productivity Drivers = Adoption of modern business, production management practices on the farm + Application of safe, proven agricultural technologies
  • Less than 2% are involved in production agriculture.
  • We need to get past "or" and move to "and." For example, it should not be "organic or conventional farming" it should be "organic and conventional farming."
Symposium Luncheon Address: Sheryl WuDunn
  • We must intervene early no matter what the cause.
  • Maternal attachment is so important to children success (both mother and father).
  • The brain develops the most in the first 1,000 days of life.
  • "Growing up poor is bad for your brains."
  • Thirty percent of american girls will get pregnant by the age of 19. Three times higher than European girls. 
  • Note the video below that was shared at the event in a discussion o empowering women:

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Improved Food Security and Nutrition: Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Jeppe Kolding, Ami Mathiesen, Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted
  • The future of mankind is based on fish.
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing area in the food industry in the past 20 years.
  • Eating fish make healthier children in developing countries.
  • China is number one in fish production from aquaculture.
  • Small fish have a higher nutritional value than large fish. Smaller fish are also more environmentally friendly. 
  • Africa and developing countries are not ready for aquaculture yet.
  • Fifty percent of fish feed has to come from proteins and fats.
  • Whole sun dried fish serve as vitamins and minerals at high concentrates ,becasue the drying has removed all water.
  • "Fish are animals breeding like plants and eating like lions."
Secretary's Roundtable: Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition: Hon. Thomas Vilsack, Alexander Howard, Brady Deaton, Gavin Starks
  • USDA is committed to opening up public funded research data for all to easily access.
  • We cannot expect others to open their data if we do not open ours.
  • The ability to communicate in real time is huge.
  • We need to find ways to protect identities, but share data through anonymity.
  • We have to think about data ethics.
  • Open data can help reduce friction in trade.
  • If you open data it is amazing how quality improves.
  • Thirty percent of food in the world is not used as intended.
  • The goal is to make data open to the public just not large companies and organizations.
  • The more precise we become it will benefit the farmer financially and the environment.
  • Law is always trying to catch up with the technology.
We concluded the day by enjoying a great dinner at he Machine Shed Restaurant before returning to the hotel to watch the Laureate Award Ceremony on television where Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was honored. We are all looking forward to a spectacular final day of learning, analyzing, and discussing the challenge of feeding 9 billion plus by 2050!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Borlaug Dialogue Kicks Off!

Today was a spectacular day as the Borlaug Dialogue kicked off in Des Moines, Iowa as part of the World Food Prize. The afternoon was filled with key issues facing Global Hunger and Agriculture. I will share key points from the various sessions. Our goal is that you will discuss these points and have the conversations grow from Des Moines to around the globe.

Kenneth Quinn kicked off the afternoon with a recap of the events of the past year for the World Food Prize. He, also, noted the theme for this years dialogue as "Borlaug 101." It was evident from the start that this is going to be an awesome learning experience for all involved.

Opening Keynote: Chelsea Clinton
  • We have a crisis that will only be amplified as our population grows. Feeding our world.
  • Investing and empowering women is not just the right thing, but the smart thing to do.
  • Women farmers should not just be participants, but leaders.
  • 1 in 3 children in Africa are food insecure.
  • We must tackle child nutrition issues.

Empowering Women and Girls Through STEM Education: Catherine Bertini, Chelsea Clinton, Michiel Bakker, Robert Fraley, Honorable Kim Reynolds, and Mary Wagner
  • About 3 million students will be involved in STEM programs in school, but many more are needed.
  • It has been found that in math and science classrooms teachers start calling on girls less and less as they go through school.
  • Three states in the United States did not even have one female take an AP computer exam.
  • We must change the structures of classrooms to be more hands on.
  • We must have a balanced education from arts to general education to STEM.
  • Farmers in the United States spend 10-15 minutes a year controlling weeds in an acre of land, where in Africa a farmer may spend 2-3 months managing weeds in an acre area. This is why STEM education is important.
  • A challenge for all: Make it a priority to create a list of women and men that you will mentor. Being a mentor is important!
The Ebola Crisis: One Year Later: Monty Jones and H.E. Florence Chenoweth
  • Now Ebola has a 70% survival rate.
  • Ebola hit the four breadbasket areas of Africa.
  • Ebola brought out the true resilience in Africa. We will rebuild!
  • Since October 4th Liberia has been declared Ebola free.
  • Africa must focus on getting back to where we were before Ebola hit. This includes everything: schools, health, agriculture, etc.
  • With communication Ebola could have been controlled better, but we had no idea what to communicate when it hit.
University of California Davis World Food Center: Launcing a New Initiative - Food For a Healthy World: Roger Beachy, Joseph Glauber, Christine Stewart, Daniel Sumner
  • Health transition mirrors economic transformation.
  • Food prices have eased over the last 12 months.
  • New population projections are showing 9.6 billion by 2050.
  • Bio-fuel demand has slowed since 2011 and future growth will depend on energy prices.
  • Globally child stunting is decreasing, but obesity is slowly increasing.
  • Poor quality diets are the leading cause of illness and mortality globally.
  • Food supply does not meet nutrient requirements or adequate dietary diversity.
  • We must place a priority on nutrient rich crops.
  • We must involve agriculturists in nutrition.
  • Import and export barriers and subsidies hurt the poor and hinder efficiency of agriculture.

We concluded the evening by making our way to the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates where Eric Pohlman was awarded the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. This provided an excellent opportunity to network with others and explore the Hall of Laureates.

Check back Thursday and Friday evenings as the conversations continue! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

World Food Prize Comes to Hawkeye

Today we were honored to have David Lambert from Washington D.C. on campus to share his lecture "A Closer Look at Global Food Security: Why Science Matters" as part of the World Food Prize Lecture Series. David is is an internationally recognized advocate for global food security. A former senior vice president of the New York Stock Exchange, he was President Clinton’s appointee as Foreign Agricultural Service counselor in Rome from 1999-2003. He serves as a distinguished fellow for Iowa State University’s Seed Science Center. As principal for Lambert Associates, he provides strategic policy advice on global food security, child nutrition, food safety, and agricultural biotechnology.

David shared issues impacting and facing global food security. He covered everything from climate change to nutrition to biotechnology. He went on to challenge those in attendance to encourage a culture change to cut down on food waste as 40% of food never reaches a human stomach for various reasons. Watch in future weeks for a video of David's lecture. We will share this video on our blog when it is available.

Above David is pictured with administration, faculty, and staff from the Global Agriculture Learning Center and Hawkeye Community College.This lecture series offered by the World Food Prize is part of the World Food Prize being held in Des Moines this week. On Wednesday students and faculty will travel to Des Moines for the Borlaug Dialogue and World Food Prize. Watch for nightly recaps and updates from the events in Des Moines to expand conversations around the globe!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

France's Plan for Carbon and Soil

We take a look at an ambitious plan by the French to increase the amount of carbon going into the soil. This has many benefits as noted in the linked article below. Read through the article below and use the discussion points to guide conversations around the globe.

How France Plans to Bury Carbon Emissions

Discussion Points

  • What role does soil play with carbon emissions?
  • Explain France's plans in regards to carbon and soil? What are their goals?
  • Why is it a challenge to raise soil carbon content?
  • What are the benefits of carbon rich soils in regards to soil health, plant growth, and the environment?
  •  Do you think this is a realistic plan/goal? How would individuals in your home country react to a plan like this?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Women's Role in Agricluture

Women have always been a vital part of agriculture, but have not always received the respect they deserve. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is trying to bring light to the importance of women in agriculture production roles around the United States. They have created info-graphics for the United States as well as each state within it. In fact in the United States women make up 31% of the farming population. When you look at developing countries this percentage is much higher with 60-80% of farmers being women.

I encourage you to checkout the link below to explore the impact women have on production agriculture in the United States and follow the link within it to discover women's impact in various states and regions within the United States.

Women in Agriculture

Discussions Points
  • What are your thoughts after exploring these websites? Were you surprised by the numbers in the United States or specific states? Explain your thoughts.
  • How do different regions of the United States compare to one another regarding percentage of women who are agriculture producers? Why do you think this is the case?
  • Reflect on your home region and how it relates to the overall average in the United States. (For those in the U.S. compare your home state and for those outside of the U.S. compare your home country/state.)
  • Look at women in agriculture on a global level. Have each person in your group/class/discussion research another country besides the United States or your home country. What percentage of farmers are women? How does this compare to the U.S.? What are the factors behind the higher, equal, or lower percentages?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Teach Ag!

This week I came across many potential topics to hit on relating to global agriculture, but I kept returning to the theme of the week around campus which was centered around an event today...National Teach Ag Day in the United States. On our campus today we hosted many to explore career options in agricultural education. We are facing a serious shortage of agricultural educators in the United States. National Teach Ag Day is all about promoting and bringing awareness to the great profession of agricultural education. Here is a link to a video that was created to get you thinking about what agricultural education is all about!

I have noticed as I travel to other countries agricultural education is something that you often do not see in education until the collegiate level. This always gets we thinking...Where would the United States be without agricultural education? Or the better question yet...Where would the world be if everyone had agricultural education around the world? So here's my challenge to you...What does agricultural education look like around the globe and how does this impact certain countries and/or regions?

Global Agricultural Education Challenge

  • Research different countries agricultural education systems. This can be done individually or by pairing up with others.
    • Is there formal agricultural education?
    • How is agricultural knowledge delivered (book, email, field days, text message, etc.)?
    • Who delivers agriculture knowledge (teachers, universities, researchers, extension, government, etc.)?
  • After you have researched specific countries/regions evaluate their agricultural education systems.
    • Are there things you would change? Why?
    • How does their agricultural education programs impact the country or region as it relates to economics, health and nutrition, stability, etc.?
  • Assume that you were just elected to a government office for a newly created country. You have been asked to shape and create the agricultural education system for this country. What would your recommendations be? Be sure to justify your responses.
  • Once your research and analysis is complete share your findings with others and let the conversations begin!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Food Insecurity or Hunger

This week we take a look at food insecurity and how it relates to hunger. A lot of times food insecurity can be misunderstood and this article makes you take a deeper look at things. Read through the linked article and use the discussion points below to lead your conversations.

Are we confusing hunger with food insecurity?

Discussion Points

  • Explain and discuss what food insecurity is versus hunger.
  • Explain the concept of "hidden hunger."
  • In what ways do families deal with food shortages?
  • Do you have/see food insecurity in your local community? Explain your response.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Global Food Prices Drop

We have all heard the reports of a bunker crop coming and low commodity prices. Yet another sign of this is a large decline in global food prices. Linked below is an article that hits on this decline in food prices and examines many reasons. Read the linked article and use the discussion points to guide conversations around the globe in various settings!

Global Food Prices Drop Most in 7 Years

Discussion Points

  • What causes were noted as reasons for declining food and commodity prices around the globe? See how many you can identify. 
  • Explain how this article stresses the global network we are all a part of in agriculture.
  • How long has it been since we have seen declines like this?
  • What are your predictions in relation to food and commodity prices over the next year? Over the next five years? Be sure to support your responses.
  • How do crops look in your home area? How will this effect global food prices?
  • Are low food prices a good or bad thing? Look at this from many different perspectives.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The China/United States Food Connection

Food safety has been a concern in the United States for years and these same issues are rising to the top in China as well. The article linked below takes a look at a group that got together recently to examine and discuss the relationship and possibilities shared between China and the United States as it relates to agriculture trade and food safety. After looking over the attached article use the discussion questions below to start conversation with others.

The Surprising Synergies of China and American Agriculture

Discussion Points
  • What was one of the main things that helped shape food safety regulations in the United States?
  • What/who is helping to shape China food safety policies today?
  • Explain the arable land and population relationship in China and the United States and how this can or does effect the supply chain.
  • Discuss the current supply chain in place between China and the United States as it relates to agricultural goods.
  • What do you see as the possibilities of food safety and relations between these two countries? If you are from a country other than China or the United States what does your food supply chain look like with China and/or the United States?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Threat of Invasive Species

Recently talks have taken place about relaxing trade regulations and  increasing relations between Cuba and the United States. Many are excited about the possibilities of new markets, but some are concerned with the potential impact of invasive species both to the United States and Cuba. Linked below is an article that describes the potential threats and concerns of some Florida organizations and farmers. Read the article and then strike up a conversation using the discussion points below as a guide.

Warming Cuba Relations Spurs Invasive Species Debate

Discussion Points

  • Many in Florida are concerned with the treat of invasive species from Cuba. Who is concerned and why are they concerned? How do they see these invasive species arriving?
  • Invasive species are not just a concern due to trade, but there are other contributing factors. Explain the event that took place in 1988 with dessert locusts and what can be learned from this event.
  • Why could this be a possible larger concern for Cuba than the United States?
  • Do you feel there is legitimate concern? What should be done to ensure the best outcome for all involved? Support your answers.
Additional Challenge
Take a look at invasive species in your home area. Create a list of these invasive species. How did they get here and where did they come from? What is being done to help with control? Let the conversations continue!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Specialty Coffee Key to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico at one time was a powerhouse in coffee production, but over time has slipped a little. They are growing specialty coffees to get back in the game. Take a look at the linked article discussing what is happening with Puerto Rican coffee production. Below we have provided discussion points and a further research activity.

Discussion Points
  • How has Puerto Rican coffee production changed over the years? What trends have we seen?
  • What are some important growing conditions for specialty coffee production in Puerto Rico?
  • Why is specialty coffee production important to Puerto Rico?
  • Explain how coffee quality is determined?

Further Research
GALC challenges you to do the following research and discuss your findings with others:
  • Where does your home country receive most of their coffee from?
  • What does coffee production look like in your home country?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

EU Dairy More Competitive than US Exports

This week we take a look at dairy production in the European Union and how it relates to United States exports. As always we have provided discussion points to guide your conversations.

Discussion Points:
  • What factors have led to EU dairy products being so competitive compared to U.S. exports?
  • Lately what has the trend been in regards to EU milk production? Is this trend projected to continue? Explain your responses.
  • What do you believe will happen with dairy production and prices globally? Where will demand come from and who will respond with production?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

U.S. Asks Others to Reconsider Poultry Ban

The article U.S. Asks China to Drop Ban takes a look at the bans that are currently in place for United States poultry products in various countries including China and Mexico. The article proposes how U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, would like other countries to handle the ban of poultry. Look over the linked article and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Discussion Points

  1. Explain what Secretary Vilsack is asking from other countries regarding their bans on poultry from the U.S.
  2. How does China's and Mexico's current bans differ?
  3. Do you believe China, South Korea, Mexico and other countries should handle bans as suggested by Secretary Vilsack? If the roles were reversed would the U.S. feel comfortable allowing product from a specific region while not another? Justify your responses.
  4. How will all of these events (avian flu, bans, etc.) effect the United States and Global poultry economies? What are the ramifications?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Damaging Agriculture Goods Intercepted

Recently Custom and Border Protection agents intercepted goods in Cincinnati that could be damaging to the United States agriculture sector. Read the article: High-risk Foreign Goods Intercepted to learn more about the goods that were intercepted. Then use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Discussion Points

  1. What types of goods were sent to the U.S., how were they disguised, and from what countries were they arriving from?
  2. If these goods mentioned would have been allowed to enter into the United States agriculture sector what could the effects have been?
  3. What do you feel would be the most devastating to United States agriculture if allowed past agents (invasive species, avian influenza, foot and mouth disease, crop diseases, etc.)? Explain your reasoning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flying Robot and Sheep

A few weeks back we took a look at the proposed rules being introduced by the FAA regarding UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones. UAV's have great potential in the agriculture industry, but most think of crop scouting capabilities as they relate to UAV use. Some farmers in Ireland have found an alternative use involving their sheep herd. Check out the article: Flying Robot and Sheep for details on how they use their UAV and a video that shows their UAV in action.

Use the following discussion points below to guide your conversations!
  1. In what different ways did these Irish farmers utilize their UAV?
  2. Is this a good use for UAV's? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  3. Brainstorm all the different ways that you could utilize UAV's related to agriculture. We encourage you to think outside of the norm. If you are working within a classroom or group share everyone's thoughts and see who comes up with the most creative use for the agriculture industry.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Realities Facing Us

In past blog posts I have shared a variety of videos and some from Elanco through their Enough Movement. This weeks blog includes another video to get you thinking about the realities and challenges facing us in feeding a growing world. Watch the short video below and use the discussion points to guide conversations in your classrooms and communities.

Discussion Points

  1. Why are we seeing such an increase in meat, egg, and milk demand worldwide? What two key contributing factors were mentioned?
  2. What will we experience over the next seven years that was mentioned in the video?
  3. Share your ideas on how we can feed more people with less. This can be done individually or in groups. (If done in groups have members create posters and share their ideas with the larger group.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

China's Focus Shifting

For years China has focused on maximizing yields at many costs. The linked article below takes a look at the shift that is taking place regarding agriculture production in China. After looking over the linked article utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms and communities.

China Policy Shift

Discussion Points

  1. Describe China's production policy/focus in the past. 
  2. Why is China moving to a more balanced approach of focusing equally on: quantity, quality, efficiency, environmental protection, and sustainable development? 
  3. How do you feel your home country does balancing the above mentioned areas in crop production? Does your respective home country put too high or too low of emphasis on certain areas? Explain all responses. 
  4. Do you foresee this focus shift in China affecting global agriculture markets? Why or why not?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sugarcane and Rain

Our day today was spent traveling north of Goiania to a sugar cane production region. We spent our day at Jalles Machado ethanol and sugar production facility which was built in 1981. They have 62,000 hectors of sugar cane fields which is about 150,000 acres. From this 60% produces ethanol and 40% organic sugar for human consumption. The plant both conventional and organic sugar cane, with the organic being made into sugar for export to mainly the USA and Europe. A sugar cane plant can be productive from 4-8 years but most of the time after 4 years it is rotated with soybeans. Depending on the rainfall (or season) it takes from 12-18 months for the sugar cane to grow to maturity for harvesting. It was a very interesting and educational tour.

As some of my posts have indicated it has been rainy much of the time we have been in Brazil, today was no exception. At Jalles Machado they showed a graph with rainfall averages from the past 30 years, 2014 and 2015 to date. January was exceptionally dry and they were below average for February rainfall. March is slightly above average and there are still a couple weeks to go. The Brazilians are happy to see the rain, from an agricultural perspective I can see why.

We enjoyed Brazilian pizza tonight for supper and it was delicious! At the restaurant we went to they bring pizza after pizza all of different kinds, you take what you want and eat until you are full. It is like a buffet but they serve can't get much better than that!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Learning and Relaxing

March 17

Today we started the day off with a long bus ride to the south for a tour at the Itumbiara Pioneer plant. The production manager shared a presentation with us about Pioneers production and research structure in Brazil. The plant we visited focuses on corn production and produces a number of varieties for export. Yesterday they were bagging small bags for export to Pakistan. During our tour they were very willing to show us every detail of production. One aspect that amazed students was the cold storage. The seven bay cold storage is held at 53 degrees Fahrenheit and when full can hold 1.1 million bags valued at $385 million. Students really enjoyed this tour.

The bus rides give us time to enjoy the different scenery that Brazil has to offer. In Brazil there is a lot of cattle production, mainly grazing in the Goias region. The predominant breed is the Nelore which is a Bos Indicus breed (humped and lighter muscled but heat tolerant and more insect resistant).

We spent time in the afternoon at an organic farm near Goiania. This farm was certified in 2008 and has about 1000 acres, 50% of which is in its natural state for environmental preservation. Some main crops produced are beans (23 varieties), rice, citrus fruits, cassava, tomatoes, and potatoes, in all over 20 different crops are produced. They also rise cattle, swine and poultry organically.

March 18

Today was a relaxing day at the hot spring water park. Unfortunately we didn't have a warm, clear day but the water is so warm it was still enjoyable. They have water slides, a wave pool, and pools for floating or playing volleyball (students had some pretty lively games).

We ended the day at a Brazilian restaurant that offered some American options. Juarez, our host, said this was one of his favorite restaurants. He ordered for us a combination of Brazilian and American foods...rice, beans, steak, fries with cheese to name a few.

Today was another great day.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Great Day of Learning

Our morning was spent at Embrapa rice and beans research facility which is one of 45 locations across Brazil within the Embrapa network.  They started with an informative presentation on the work they do which ranges from grains to livestock.  We visited experiment fields for cotton, peanuts and upland rice.  Different grains have different breeding focuses.  A focus for cotton is creating a glyphosate resistant plant that has drought tolerance and good quality fiber.  In Brazil the focus is in upland rice (not produced in flooded paddocks) that is drought resistant with good yields and grain quality (non-sticky, soft rice).  In Brazil double cropping is common as is using rotational planting programs.  Currently one of the rotations they are using and having great success with is soybeans followed by upland rice and then planting corn and grass together.  After harvesting the corn they grass will thrive and can be grazed for two years.


We ate lunch at UFG agronomy school cafeteria today and followed that with a campus tour.  We visited the coffee roasting facility, main campus to see the monkeys and the TV production studio.

We ended our day at "ibf" which is bioactive fertilizer production.  The big question all day by students was what do they produce?  Simply, an additive of bacteria and fungi.  So what do you do with this additive you might be wondering.  It is added to cattle manure, poultry litter or sugar cane processing by-products along with phosphate rock to breakdown the components of the mixture making it ready for field application.  In Brazil the soil is lacking in phosphorus and calcium, this combination provides the lacking elements.

I think it is fair to say we all learned a lot about crop production in Brazil today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Relaxing Day with Friends

Today we started our day by touring some of Goiania. We stopped for coconut waters, which most of the students really enjoyed.

The main highlight of today was spending time at Juarez Oliveira's home. He and his family graciously invited our group and a few UFG students to their home for a relaxing afternoon. He prepared bean soup to start the meal out, followed by feijoada and finally dessert. Feijoada is a thick stew like main dish made with black beans, sausage links (sliced), beef roast and pork shoulder meat. It is served with rice and is delightful. For dessert we had watermelon and vanilla ice cream with a banana sauce, also amazing. None of us left hungry!

There was lots of great conversation among students from Brazil and the U.S. along with faculty. The guys enjoyed the pool playing "water football" with a soccer ball.

Today was a relaxing, fun day in Brazil.

Waterfalls and Bazaar

Somehow we got lucky today, we had rain on our roughly 3 hour bus ride to Pirenopolis and again on the way to Goiania, but had beautiful weather while at Pirenopolis.

Pirenopolis is a city with many small shops and restaurants but for us the main attraction was the hiking and waterfalls. We hiked approximately half a mile seeing 7 waterfalls along the way. Much of the terrain is rocky, some is very steep with small plank or tree trunk bridges to cross the springs. Once at the very top there is a large waterfall and swimming area. The water comes from natural springs so it is COLD. The adrenaline rush for many of the students (and faculty) was jumping off one of the two ledges into the pool below. The higher ledge is about 20 meters to the water surface. Many students jumped from both ledges multiple times, enjoying every minute of our time there. If you didn't want to jump you could enjoy the nice weather and cold but clear water. We ate lunch in Pirenopolis and spent a little time looking into the shops.

After checking into our hotel in Goiania we walked down to the Saturday night street bazaar. There was a huge selection of food vendors and shops selling a variety of goods. Students enjoyed large amounts of food and a few made purchases. It was a great way to end the day! global-agriculture-learning-center-logo.jpg

Friday, March 13, 2015

Experiencing Brasilia

This year 13 students agriculture students from Hawkeye Community College have decided to take the great opportunity to study abroad in Brazil over spring break.

Today was a very educational day. We started out visiting the ministry of agriculture where Raul de Oliveira Fontoura (policy advisor) gave a informative presentation on Brazilian agriculture and had an opportunity to ask questions. Brazil is number one in production and export of sugar and coffee, they are second in production and first in exports for soybeans with 52.7% of all soybean production being exported. Brazil does have a major challenge with infrastructure and getting commodities to ports for market. Currently, new ports in the northern region are being constructed along with a railway system to help transport goods for exportation. It was a great start to the day.

We ate lunch at Mangai which is a traditional Brazilian buffet. There is a vast amount of food to choose from including a large dessert selection. It is open air dining and today was a beautiful day for that. Interesting and typical of traditional Brazilian restaurants is the method of pricing buffets. After you fill your plate they weigh it to determine what your meal will cost.

Our next stop was the JK Memorial. Juscelino Kubitschek was the 21st president (1956-1961) of Brazil and the man with a vision of Brasilia as a city. Before JK took office the area where Brasilia sits was a savanna area but now a city designed in the shape of an airplane sits as the capital. It took 41 months for completion in 1960. The memorial was built in his memory in 1980 where his body now resides. He is seen as one of the great presidents of Brazil and the man who built modern Brazil.

Our afternoon ended with a visit to APEX. At APEX they focus on development of export markets for Brazilian commodities as well as work with outside investors. They have nine additional world wide locations, 2 in the US (San Francisco and Miami), that help support the mission of export expansion. Another very informative visit.

Overall, it was a great day learning about Brazil.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bird Flu Brings International Bans

As bird flu is showing up in various states around the United States more and more countries are banning chicken coming from the United States. The linked article below from AgWeb takes a look at Bird Flu in the U.S. and what impact it is having. We encourage you to check out the article and reflect with others on the discussion points provided.

International Bans Against U.S. Poultry

Discussion Points

  • What parts of the United States have seen cases of avian influenza and when have these cases appeared?
  • Which countries have placed a ban on U.S. poultry and how will this affect markets?
  • Should this strain of avian influenza be a concern for citizens? Explain your reasoning.
  • Share your ideas on ways to stop the spread and ultimately end the avian influenza that is hitting the U.S.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brazil by Morning

This afternoon 13 students and two faculty from Hawkeye Community College boarded a plane in Cedar Rapids in route to Atlanta, before making a connecting flight to Brasilia, Brazil. This group will spend 10 days in the country of Brazil exploring agriculture, making new friends, and being immersed in Brazilian culture. Their adventure will begin in the capital of Brasilia before making their way to the city of Goiania. They will explore the state of Goias throughout this time. We encourage you to check back often to see where their travels take them!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ukraine Corn Production Down

Ukraine has become a major producer of corn and ships out more corn than any other country when you take the United States and Brazil out of the equation. However, this year Ukraine is expecting a major decrease in corn production. The article Ukraine Corn Losses from AgWeb discusses the issues facing corn production in Ukraine and the ramifications that may come. Look over this article then discuss the questions below.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is causing the decreasing corn production in Ukraine?
  2. Why has wheat not been affected at this time the way corn production has in Ukraine?
  3. Have you seen anything like this with interest rates in the past in your home country? When and what were the repercussions?
  4. Could you see a similar situation, like in Ukraine, happening in your home country in the future? If yes, what would lead to this? If no, why do you feel your country is protected from this?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Striking in Brazil

A trucker strike in Brazil has affected the movement of commodities such as soybeans and poultry and has slightly affected markets with the possibility of greater consequences if the strike continues. I encourage you to look over the article Brazilian Trucker Strike from Ag Web then discuss with others the impact this has on Brazil, the United States, and other countries around the world.

Discussion Questions

  1. What has caused the truckers to strike in Brazil?
  2. What has been the ramifications of the truckers strike within Brazil?
  3. How has the strike impacted markets globally? What do you foresee happening if this is not resolved by the weekend as speculated?
  4. While globally many have seen a decline in oil prices why has Brazil seen an increase?
  5. Why have exports from Brazil not been widely impacted yet?
  6. Could you ever see something like this happening in your home country? Justify your response.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

UAV's Overhead

UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) have been a hot topic in agriculture (and in general) here in the United States as well as around the globe. They have great potential to benefit agriculture through remote sensing practices and scouting. That being said, they also come with controversy on privacy and the law is trying to catch up. It is like many things. Used properly UAV's can be a huge asset and tool, but used improperly and issues can arise.

In the last week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came out with proposed rules for UAV's weighing under 55 pounds and have even mentioned the possibility of a different set of rules for smaller UAV's weighing in at less than 4.4 pounds. Read the following article to get the details below then use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Forbes Article Summarizing Proposed Rules

FAA Document Outlining Proposed Rulemaking

Discussion Points

  1. What benefits do you see UAV's bringing to the agriculture industry?
  2. What are your thoughts on the proposed rules governing UAV's? Are they too weak, too strong, or just right? Explain.
  3. Which proposed rule do you feel is the most important and why?
  4. Would you make any revisions to the rules? Justify your suggestions for improvement.
Further research: I encourage you to explore how other countries view UAV's roles in agriculture. How does society view UAV's in other countries? See if you can find information on laws and regulations regarding UAV's in other countries. I encourage you to share your findings by commenting on this post for others to get in on the discussion!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What in the World?!?!?

We have all heard the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is your chance to test that theory! Below is a picture from our students recent experience near Pignon, Haiti for you to analyze with questions to guide you. When our students first came across this scene in person they were immediately intrigued and I hope the same is true for you!

Soil Profile near Pignon, Haiti

Photo Question Guide

  • What are your first thoughts or observations from this photo?
  • How does this soil profile differ from soil profiles in your area? 
  • What could have caused this soil formation?
  • What challenges would you face if growing in this region?
  • What are some things you could do to improve the soil in this area?
  • What can you learn from this photograph?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Global Food Security from Australia

The video clip below from Rabobank Australia focuses on the demand we are putting on the earth and farmers to produce and preserve enough food for our growing world. I challenge you to watch and then discuss the questions below with others! Agriculture Educators encourage your students to jot down notes as they watch to aid in discussion.

Discussion Questions

  1. What points from the video did you find surprising or alarming and why?
  2. What factors did the video attribute to increased food demand? Be specific.
  3. How does food waste impact hunger around the world? How does it differ in developed regions versus developing regions?
  4. What has happened with productivity gain of major food commodities over the past couple years? Explain.
  5. Who is all involved in solving food security issues?
  6. It is obvious that countries around the globe understand the needs and challenges facing a food secure world. How do we break down barriers and work together as global citizens (not competing countries) to achieve this?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Ag Story

As more and more individuals become farther removed from a farm there becomes a great disconnect between the average consumer and agriculture. Do consumers really know how their food is produced and where it comes from? There is a good chance many consumers misunderstand or have been misinformed on the topics of how and where their food is produced. Due to this disconnect there has been a strong movement of agriculture advocacy as of late. One piece of this advocacy was the production of the film Farmland to tell agriculture's story. This past week we had a screening of Farmland at Hawkeye Community College. The film sparked great discussion after viewing and the conversations that followed were rich in agriculture education. I encourage you to check out the film if you have not had a chance. Check out the Farmland website where you can view trailers and find information on how to view the film.

Discussion Points

  1. What is agriculture advocacy?
  2. Why is agriculture advocacy so important?
  3. How does one advocate for agriculture? What are the different ways to tell the story of agriculture?
  4. How has agriculture advocacy changed over the years?
  5. Do you see agriculture advocacy taking place in your local community? Elaborate on your response.

Further Agricultural Education Challenge

Challenge students to become advocates for agriculture! Create groups of 3 to 4 students. Each group is given the task to tell the great story of agriculture. As a group they must create 3 pieces. They will work together to create a poster, press release for a local paper, and a thirty second radio advertisement to share the benefits of agriculture and the great things happening.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Enough Protein?

Watch the short video below from Elanco that shines light on the growing demand for protein globally and facts regarding production of meat, milk, and eggs. Then use the discussion points and activity below.

Discussion Points and Activity

  1. Have students/group create a list of the points made throughout the video.
    1. What point surprised you the most? Why?
    2. What point made poses the greatest challenge? Why?
  2. Agriculture Education Activity
    1. Split students up into groups of 3-4.
    2. Have each group develop a plan to increase meat, milk, and egg production in a sustainable manner. Encourage students to think outside of the box and assume they have no financial restrictions.
    3. Allow groups approximately 10 minutes to develop their plan and create a poster outlining their plan.
    4. At the conclusion have each group share their plan and discuss options as a class.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

King of Organic Farming Facing Greater Restrictions

New regulations being proposed in the European Union could slow and even decrease organic production. The EU has been known for it's emphasis in organic production. You will find the article: New EU Regulation Could Curb Organic Farming to have information on organic farming in the EU and the new policies that could shape organic production. Read through the article then use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Discussion Points

  1. How would the new proposal effect organic farming? Be specific.
  2. Compare the percent of ground in Germany currently used to produce organic products to their goal of 20% of farmland to be utilized for organic production. Do you believe this is an attainable goal? What will allow Germany to achieve this or what will keep them from achieving this?
  3. In the last section of this article Martin Häusling states that organic products need to leave the niche market so they are not a premium product. What do you feel needs to happen to make this a reality? Justify your response.
  4. How is organic farming perceived in your home community? Do you feel these perceptions are an accurate reflection of organic farming?

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Blast of Cold Air

This morning we said goodbye to JeanJean, Kristie, and their family along with our new friends, the Jackrabbits, from South Dakota State University. We cannot thank JeanJean and Kristie enough for their hospitality. We traveled from Caiman to Port au Prince via the Land Cruiser where we boarder a plane for Miami. From there we made our connection to frigid Chicago where we have settled in for the night. The cold has been a rude awakening after a tropical week in Haiti. This has truly been an amazing experience and we all have a lot to reflect on from the past week. Tomorrow we will make the final leg of our trip flying from Chicago to Cedar Rapids.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tales from the Rooftop

It was another great day in Haiti that started on the roof of the university and wrapped up there as well. We kicked things off by scouting out places to mount sensors for a weather station that will collect weather data to be shared by the students at UCCC and Hawkeye. The roof of the university turned out to be a perfect place with spectacular views. Shortly after 9:00 AM we met with the agriculture students one final time. We had an in depth discussion on American agriculture and wrapped up the morning analyzing soil test results from Wednesday and discussing practices to improve soil nutrition.

After lunch the Hawkeye students went to the elementary to help with English class while Dave and I went to the computer lab to replace some computer drives with educational resources for the students of UCCC. After that we finished mounting the sensors for the weather station. Next we loaded up and headed to Saul's farm to see an orange grove, plantains, papayas, along with other various crops growing.

Next we returned to campus where we were able to take in a soccer game between two of the local villages. From there we made our way to the roof top of the university once more to take in the views of Haiti and watch the sun set behind the mountains. Shortly after supper we were treated to an amazing performance by a men's choir from the area. We concluded a great day meeting with JeanJean and Kristie reflecting on our past week in Haiti. Tomorrow will be a long day of travel as we prepare to return home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

International Year of Soils

It is fitting that this year has been deemed the International Year of Soils by the USDA and today students from Hawkeye worked with students from UCCC in Haiti to test soils. We worked all morning and some of the afternoon testing soils for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It was incredible to see the students reaction from UCCC as they tested soil for the first time!

Their attention to the task at hand was amazing. The highlight of the day was hearing the feedback from students as they reported to JeanJean on their experiences from the day. We heard comments like:"This is the best day ever!" and "We needed this hands-on experience!"

Next we returned to that famous shade tree to enjoy a coke and analyze test results from the day so we can share findings and recommendations with the students tomorrow.

We wrapped up a stellar day by passing along a goat purchased by Iowans with the assistance of the Hawkeye students to a family in the area. They will utilize the goat for milk production for years to come. It's hard to believe that tomorrow will be our last full day in Haiti before returning home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sampling for Solutions

Today was a spectacular day with the Haitian students of UCCC! We started off with a question and answer session with the students of UCCC regarding agriculture in the United States. The students from Hawkeye did an excellent job sharing practices utilized on their home farms. After our time in the classroom we made our way outside to analyze the soil profile. From there we made our way to the school gardens where students showcased their plots. Each student is given an area to grow crops of their choice. They also get to choose spacing, fertilizer plans, and other practices to compare with each other. The work they are doing is outstanding!

After lunch we returned to the university to have an orientation, led by the students of Hawkeye, on soil sampling. From there we took to the gardens in three separate groups to pull soil samples from each students plot. We decided we were sampling for solutions. Over the last couple days the emphasis from the students is we need to talk about the solutions not the problem! At the conclusion of our sampling session we handed the probes over to the agriculture department at UCCC for future use. Tomorrow we will be testing our samples.

Next we returned to our tractor from Monday. With some oil, fresh fuel, and a little work we had the tractor running! To celebrate we returned to campus and enjoyed fried chicken and mashed potatoes. After dinner we had a discussion on voodoo and how it has affected Haiti as a country both economically and socially.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Palm Tree Mechanics

We kicked off this morning with a trip to an area market, but we were early so that lead to a hike through a tropical setting to some irrigation gardens. We will return to these gardens later in the week to pull soil samples and analyze. We then made our way to a community oven where every four days bread is baked in a brick oven. We then returned to the market area where activity had picked up. Everything was being sold from sandals to vegetables to meat. We even witnessed a livestock auction!

After the market we went tractor shopping. We made our way a couple miles down the road where we found a Veniran tractor that was manufactured in Iran and needed a little TLC so we went to work checking things over. It was decided we needed some additional tools and a battery so the palm tree mechanics decided to return later in the day.

After lunch we had a session with the agriculture students to learn about agriculture practices and determine challenges facing Haitian agriculture. Many interesting points were shared and discussions had. One main point discussed was the need to invest in agriculture from society to the government to farmers. Instead of wealthy Haitians investing in Haitian agriculture they are buying products from other countries and reselling in Haiti.

After our time with students we once again enjoyed a cold pop under a shade tree reflecting on our session with the students. Next it was time to return to our roles as palm tree mechanics. We grabbed a battery, tools, and loaded up in the Land Cruiser. On our way to the Veniran we came across a John Deere 4020, but after inspection found out it was not for sale. Therefore, we found our way back to the Veniran. With a little work we had the engine cranking. We will return with oil tomorrow and see if we can get the engine to fire.

We wrapped up the evening hanging out with students from UCCC playing games, line dancing, and sharing each other's company.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Iowans Fill Haitian Restaurant

It was a great relaxing Sunday in Haiti! We started off watching some children singing in Sunday School and then joined the community for church. We were blown away by the beautiful singers from Haiti and South Dakota. JeanJean shared a great message of getting an education and doing something with it.

After church we headed into the town of Pignon for lunch. We ate at a nice cozy restaurant where we ran into another group from Iowa. Between the two Iowa groups we filled the restaurant and shared great conversation. Following lunch we stopped by a hospital and were able to see how health care works in Haiti. On our way back to Caiman we stopped off at a shack distilling molasses from sugar cane into alcohol that will be sent to Port au Prince and turned into rum.

When we got back to Caiman we had a nice discussion regarding Haitian Agriculture while enjoying ice cold Coke and Sprite under a shade tree. Next we hiked to a cave where the locals collect guano to utilize as fertilizer.

We wrapped up the evening enjoying dinner with a group from South Dakota State University who are with us for the week as they are doing mission work in the area. They even treated us to some swing dancing. Once again check out the Facebook page for pictures from the day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Touched Down in Haiti!

We have arrived! This morning we flew out of Fort Lauderdale early and arrived in Haiti a little after 8 AM. We spent most of the morning bouncing around in the Land Cruiser making our way from Port au Prince to the community of Caiman where we enjoyed Haitian spaghetti. We were able to take in much of the landscape on our trip as well.

After lunch JeanJean took us out for a sugar cane adventure! We made our way to a small sugar cane plot and processing area. There we observed a farmer pressing the cane juice out of the stalks with a press operated by bulls. After watching a little while we jumped in and tried our luck at pressing sugar cane. From there we checked out a similar iron press. We capped off our sugar cane experience by sampling cane right out of the field.

Following our time with JeanJean, Kristie took us for a tour of campus and gave us some background of how UCI was started. We got to take a look at the demonstration gardens, irrigation plots, and the greenhouse we will work with more through out the week.

Now we are sitting outside under a tree reflecting on our day and preparing for supper. We look forward to another great day tomorrow. Check out our Facebook page later tonight for pictures from the day.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Growing Haitian Agriculture

Today we departed for Haiti! We won't actually arrive in Haiti until Saturday, but our travels started on Friday. Today we made our way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Chicago, Illinois to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tomorrow morning we make a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Haiti where we will meet the students and faculty at UCCC near Caiman to develop agriculture practices in Haiti. This evening we enjoyed a great meal outside on the patio of the Ale House. The group looks forward to catching just a couple hours of sleep before we are back to the airport and Haiti bound!

Check back over the next couple days to follow our adventures in Haiti!